Why Using Two Trekking Poles Is Essential On Himalayan Treks

Today I’m talking about using trekking poles — not just one, but two trekking poles.

For a long time, we have all used single trekking poles on our treks.

Those of us who have used it, know of its benefits — it saves nearly 40% of our energy, it gives us the much-required agility while ascending, and life-saving balance and support while descending. It also acts as a third leg, so we have that much more energy and speed.

But of late, we have been noticing the wonderful uses of two trekking poles.

“It is a lot more comfortable than using one trekking pole. It’s especially helpful while ascending steep slopes,” says Geet Tryambake, who used to be a Senior Trek Leader with us. He would always use two trekking poles.

Geet is one of our Trek Leaders who uses two trekking poles on all his treks.

I do understand that this is not an idea that many people open up to instantly. Even if they are already using one trekking pole.

Isn’t it cumbersome? Your hands won’t be free for anything else. What about stretches where I have to clamber up boulders?

Honestly, I had these issues on my mind too. I was quite stubborn about accepting the idea of two trekking poles.

So as an experiment, our founders used two trekking poles on their recent trek to Har Ki Dun and Ruinsara Tal.

This was the first time they were both using two trekking poles.

It was interesting because Arjun, our founder, was all for two trekking poles. And Sandhya, our co-founder, had her reservations about it. (And she’s super hard to debate!)

So one of the first questions I asked them when they came back was whether they liked the experience of using two poles. Here’s what they said.

The pros of two trekking poles

“It takes time getting used to. I took almost an entire day to get used to walking with two poles and coordinating my steps. But once I got used to it, it greatly helped me on the trek. It actually makes your trek a lot more comfortable. After a while, I found it uncomfortable to use just one pole,” says Sandhya.

Both of them did some speed trekking, covering nearly 20 km a day, and the trekking poles came in handy.

“I noticed that we could walk casually, without much effort, making conversation, and we were covering long distances very quickly,” says Arjun. “We hardly realised that we were trekking 20 km a day. I also noticed that we were very quick compared to other trekkers on the trail,” he adds.

Greater stability and balance. “A trek pole is meant to add more stability and balance. On this trail there were many rough sections that required us to be nimble. We had to get over them quickly. With two trek poles these sections were a breeze. We could navigate lot more efficiently.” says Arjun. “I realised much later how much more efficient these were over a single trek pole. Not little, but considerably more efficient,” continues Arjun.

Another big plus point is the reduced impact on your knee. “We had a long descent to cover on the last day. In hindsight, I don’t think I could have done it without the two trekking poles. Even one trekking pole would have been insufficient. We ended the trek with no knee pain, no sore legs, and well in time,” says Sandhya.

And all trekkers who have used two trekking poles seem to agree. Take a look at this conversation on our Trekkers Hangout Page for instance. (Click here to read the whole conversation.)

But what about using a camera or covering tricky sections where you must use your hands?

“To click pictures, I just keep the poles aside and click them. Or I keep them against my body and take pictures,” says Geet, who is also an avid photographer.

The cons of two trekking poles

About tricky sections, “There were sections when we carry two in a hand, especially when the trail was too narrow, or beside the river. But for the benefits that come with two trekking poles, I wouldn’t think too much about these small issues,” says Sandhya.

This is a little funny, but I thought I’d throw it in anyway. “Another small issue we faced was having our hands sunburnt! This was the last thing we expected and we didn’t realise this until we came back from the trek. The area exposed to the sun while holding the trekking pole got completely sunburnt,” says Arjun with a laugh.

Take a look.

Sunburnt hands while holding trekking poles

Arjun should have put on some sunscreen to his hands. A lesson well learnt.

What do you think?

So those are some learnings I’ve had about trekking poles. I don’t think I’ll go with just one pole the next time. In fact, we are even planning to rent out trekking poles in pairs to our trekkers.

Anything to make trekking more efficient. 🙂

If you have any other thoughts, or counter-points, I’d love to hear you out! Drop in a comment below.

Meanwhile, we have some good videos on trekking poles on our Youtube channel. Just click on the title you’d like to watch below.

I’ll leave you with that for now!

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy is the Chief Editor at Indiahikes. She also runs a video series, Trek With Swathi. Before joining Indiahikes, she worked as a reporter and sub-editor at Deccan Chronicle. She holds a Masters in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications such as Deccan Herald. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates that mind like nothing else can.Read Swathi's other articles. Watch Swathi's video series here.

33 thoughts on “Why Using Two Trekking Poles Is Essential On Himalayan Treks

  1. I realised the use of trekking poles pretty late in my career. If only someone had advised me to use trekking poles early in my trekking life.

    I now swear by 2 trekking poles. They are a boon in slippery sections as well as ascending and descending. I have bad knees and without the poles, I wouldn’t dare do a trek.

  2. I used to trek poles on my first Himalayan trek. I just somehow couldn’t get my head around the idea of using one, since I felt the amount of effort put by the side of the body holding the trek pole is not the same compared to the other side of the body and this creates imbalance. So I ended up using two and it worked out well.

    On top of that, our trek leader Soumitra did use 2 trek poles as well. That was very validating for me.

  3. I started using 2 poles after a trek where I got a very sore/injured right knee. I realised that all along the trek inhad supported the left knee ( because the pole was in right hand and it will synchronize with the left leg’s movement) and let the right knee take all the load by itself.

    Now I live it so much and am also sonised to it that I can’t even think of doing without 2.

    I am sure this article will help more people start doing that and I will be asked lesser questions on why do I have 2 poles :D.

    Foreigners trekking in Nepal generally all have 2, because of a simple reason, that’s the right way, that’s how you balance, both your body balance and also the load distribution on your legs

    Great article

  4. At first I use to use two poles. I had purchased two poles also. But after a few treks I realized that one is sufficient. With two poles there is a problem of balance also. One I would recommend .

  5. OK so I don’t know about Cons but I guess there are a lot Pros. So I went to kedarkantha trek this year and I went there in a winter when temperature was around -25 ° and I just had one pole. We did not know the path, we had to carve one. I realized a pole helps to dig deep so that you can understand your walking path and the steps that you are taking should be in this direction and between those poles only. 3-4 times I lost balance because I couldn’t realize that where I was digging my leg was actually snow surface only. There was nothing under it for 3-4 feets and I got injured twice. I was putting pressure on only one pole, if I had 2nd then it would have helped me to keep balance while I was not been able to see the path clearly. You should take 2 trekking poles and most importantly in winters you must.

  6. 0 poles.
    Never used them and don’t want to. I prefer having my hands free whether it is scrabbling up a steep incline in the local mountains around Ramnagara or the Sahyadhris , Everest Base camp or Roopkund done all of these with my hands free. Also, I have my camera (s) in my hand most of the time, no scope for a pole.
    That’s just me I guess, and I have never used diamox either 🙂

  7. Though I have no experience of trekking, But in my opinion it depends upon person. Now dobut that two trekking poles will make the process easier. I think it is safe to go with 1 pole. One can go with 1 pole for easy or moderate terks. But on difficult trek , it is advisable for older person to go with 2 poles for gereater stamina throughout the trek . If I were to go I would have taken 1 pole to make the process adventurous and keep my hand fee

  8. I have always used 2 trekking poles and they just make everything so better! You are faster and safer also while descending. Can’t imagine trekking without them.

  9. Trekking pole is vital as boots can get slippery as i observed while descending, skill does matter but in my opinion two poles are compulsory rather than optional , the fatigue is reduced by half.

  10. From the time when i started climbing mountains and then gradually trek in the high altitude mountains; I have never used a trekking pole. I have heard a lot of people using poles for all sort of benefits that it provides from providing balance, taking the pressure off from knees and many more such benefits.

    During my recent trek to Chandrashila Peak, all my batch mates wondered in surprise and questioned me on why and how come i do not use or need a trekking pole? On the trail while talking to each other i understood that many people and trekkers are imposed that a trekking pole is a must on a trek. They are then unconsciously put in a mode to use a pole without actually realising that they can do the trek without a pole. Once used to the pole, getting rid of it is very difficult. A pole becomes a handicap for them which may be alarming.

    Going from not using the pole to start using it is quite easy rather than stopping to use the pole suddenly.

    1. It is a matter of physical fitness. Trekking in hilly terrain with continuous steep up or down the trekking poles increase endurance of the knees. The added weight is well worth the advantage especially when stepping down more than about 35 cms. to 50 cms. A pair of light weight white cotton gloves provide adequate protection against sun burn. One has to stop to take good photographs and trek poles can be put aside for the purpose!

  11. Whenever I have trekked people have always asked a question that why you use two poles. I have always thought that this topic was not given any importance, but I am glad that such a post is up now.
    People need to understand that it’s just not natural to use one pole, it’s not our body’s natural balance mechanism.
    Pole makes a trek safe, helps in balancing, attaing speed and easy descents. It’s good that people use them. However, most of them use it to swing or just for fun. So, they need to understand it’s importance, and that it will help them to complete a trek safely and more comfortably. 😀

  12. Much recommended for all the trekkers (at least to carry one). I have seen lot of trekkers in my past treks do not carry trekking pole (considering that’s sign of weakness) end-up buying wooden sticks in local market. Even those wooden stick do not provide a proper hold/grip in sleepery sections of the trail. Well advise by Indiahikes to use trekking poles for your comfort and safety.

  13. My experience is also the same, with two trekking poles it becomes a lot easier especially on descent and steep ascents, and yes also you end up with sunburns on both hands 🙂 To avoid the sunburns, I carry an extra pair of balaclavas and put my hands through them on the pole – protects against both sun and wind and is pretty much weightless.

  14. D/ SWATHI, I FEEL TREKKING POLES ADD TO MY WEIGHT AND DOES NOT GIVE ME SENSE OF FREEDOM FOR PHOTOGRAPHY SO I AM HAPPY WITHOUT TREKKING POLES. REGARDS – SEHGAL

  15. Depends on terrain.
    I think its common sense that two poles are way better than one., on STEEP slopes, especially over 4000m and in situations like stepping over small streams, slippery stones or logs fallen across the trail. 2 poles are also better for bodily balance, as else the muscles get overworked and strained unequally, if using just one pole, unless one switches hands frequently.
    However, two poles are overkill on simpler treks or hikes. While they are light, its another thing to carry.
    As a trek leader, i’d recommend 2 poles only for steep descents. Else its up to the person.

    1. “Its another thing to carry” that reduces your load by 50% because you are walking on 4 legs instead of 2 just like how animals do…….even if you add the weight of “the another thing” , the net load you carry is lesser. So it makes sense to carry it even on easier treks.

      In india trekkers are so naive that they ask me “have you brought 2 poles by mistake :)”

  16. hellow mam,
    I would like to say about the good trekking shoes also.
    this is also the most important part in our trekking
    as i went for bhirgu lake there are many people who just came with normal shoes and after one or 2 hr walk they all are get burned,chills in there toes
    what type of shoes we have to wear in trek ?

    1. Hi, There are 4 points to look into when you are comparing trekking shoes and sports shoes.
      1. Grip on the sole — A good pair of trekking shoes always has deep grooves on the sole for grip. They could have Vibram soles or Cross Contact soles. But they will give you good grip on any surface like loose soil, snow! Running shoes are likely to have flatter soles, meant for paved routes without much gradient.

      2. Ankle support — There is a big difference in the ankle support of a trekking shoe and running shoe. Trekking shoes have ankle support that cover almost the entire ankle, refraining your ankles from moving too much. This helps avoid ankle twists and consequent injuries. Running shoes don’t have ankle support because they are meant to give your ankles more flexibility.

      3. Hardness of the sole — Trekking shoes have hard, sturdy soles that can bear the weight of your entire body for days together. They are meant to be robust and endure rough use. Running shoes have cushioned soles with shock absorbers, to help your feet when you do a high impact sport such as running.

      4. Water resistance — Most good trekking shoes come with good water resistance that will last you at least a few hours in rain and snow without getting wet. Sports shoes don’t usually have water resistance, except the high end shoes, which won’t last long anyway.

  17. I also seen from other hikers two shock absorbing poles is very helpful in tough hikes. I heard you hike farther, faster and with less pain. Collapsible, adjustable, shock absorbing poles with light weight may help to use when need it otherwise you can keep in backpack when you don’t need it. Renting poles is good idea.

  18. I did not use trekking pole during my first trek. Used one trekking pole during my next two treks. I think while using pole one must take care while trying to take support & must not hold pole in the hand which is used to take support. I have seen accident happening while doing so. Also the place where pole is rested on earth must be firm especially while walking on narrow ridge, otherwise we may loose balance.
    Definately two poles might be beneficial but I am not having experience of using two poles.

  19. Swathi,
    First and foremost, I adore and salute India hike thinktank for leading the trekking community with passion and responsibility. The ZEN approach of Arjun and you along with the support team of observing and implementing best practices is commendable, for the greater good of rapidly swelling trekking fraternity. Kudos and blessings for the future.
    Since 80′ I am using sticks and it has innumerable positives. At times on tricky rock routes especially in Sahyadri pole creates redundancy. However, during those patches they can be folded and fixed to the sacks. Getting used to is extremely Essential to appreciate the benefits.
    On the lighter side, I may express, from my experience, that many associate support as a sign of weakness. They hate photographed with poles. In the process, excuses surfaces. Anyway, all excellent teachings are scoffed at, to begin with. Never mind. Keep up the good work.

  20. In his book, “The Complete Walker”, Colin Fletcher says, “A staff turns a man from a quivering biped to a confident triped.” Taking his advice to heart, I started using a single pole about 35-40 years ago when I stopped carrying an ice axe everywhere. More recently, having broken my right ankle for the fourth time (this time 3 km from the road), I added a second pole when I bought a pair of Komperdel “women’s” poles (saved significant weight) about 10-15 years ago. I use only one while going up hill, but two when going down or level. On a flat, the symmetrical rhythm gives a sense of confidence and efficiency. It’s interesting how the subconscious quickly integrates two poles into movement patterns, and seems to select where each pole-tip and show will land without my focused attention. Freeing my hands for camera or scrambling is not a significant problem, I just let the poles hang by their straps from my wrists. If I really need to get my single “up-hill” pole out of the way while scrambling with both hands, I shove it handle-first between my pack and my shoulder blades. For a short time it is not very uncomfortable, and is very convenient.

  21. Although I am a novice with only 1 trek with IH under my belt so far, I did my trek with reasonable ease as I took my fitness seriously. I would be a little skeptical carrying 2 trek poles for my treks as if I remember correctly I used to switch hands to use the pole to avoid hand fatigue also I love photography and almost always carry a camera with me.
    I might be wrong and 2 trek poles might be more comfortable but until I try that I have my doubts

  22. Have done numerous treks and NEVER USED a pole. On my last trek borrowed one from a friend and used it only for a day. Next day onwards tied it to my backpack and preferred free hand hike. It felt more natural and had hands free for camera, drinking water etc. (I sip water frequently while hiking, prevents headaches). I guess its a personal preference. One should try and decide for themselves.

  23. I have completed the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Ri and Cho La last month, where I used to trek poles for the beefy first time. I can categorically say that I found them very useful, and using two poles is easy, no problems at all. They are convenient, and help in maintaining balance while going up as well as when descending. On narrow trails, where it wasn’t possible to use both, I held them in one hand, and I wasn’t inconvenienced in any way.

  24. I have completed the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Ri and Cho La last month, where I used two trek poles for the very first time. I can categorically say that I found them very useful, and using two poles is easy, no problems at all. They are convenient, and help in maintaining balance while going up as well as when descending. On narrow trails, where it wasn’t possible to use both, I held them in one hand, and I wasn’t inconvenienced in any way.

  25. Before going on my first India-hikes trip in Juli 2017, I had thought it was quite natural to use 2 trek poles for hiking. Only to discover that on that trip to Pin Bhaba pass, I was actually the only one with 2 poles. But then, I was also the only person not from India. 🙂
    When I was younger, I had thought using poles was just something for old people. But then I soon came to realize that using 2 poles does absolutely make sense. Particularly when you carry heavy stuff and/or go downhill: You can actually better balances the weight and you can also balance out uneven ground more easily, let alone when there’s gravel or snow. So unless it’s a flat walk in the countryside, I’d always use my 2 trekking poles for any hike – even short ones.

  26. I have moved from 2 pole system now to 1 pole system. The reasons are as follows
    1. I am now stronger in my knees
    2. Two poles make me slower
    3. I have bought the new Blackdiamond black diamond whippet which is basically ice axe and a pole in one, so I cant use two of them.

  27. Using 2 trekking poles caused a lot of problem to me as I carry my DSLR to capture pics during trek. That trek I was almost photo-less. So 1 trek pole is the mantra for the people who have cameras/mobiles and are enthusiastic to capture everlasting memories in pictures. others can decide based on their preference.

  28. Would love to move with 2 poles, as it would reduce d strain on both the knees and I have already started with the small trek nearby. It was a great comfort while ascending and descending too. It gives a proper balance to the body.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *